Dressing up Toronto for the Pan Am Games


Photos courtesy Holman

By Peter Saunders
From July 10 to August 15, Ontario hosted the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, the largest international multi-sport event ever held in Canada. More than 6,000 athletes participated in 140 events at 32 venues across the province’s Golden Horseshoe region, with Toronto serving as the focal point.

Toronto’s municipal government, for its part, undertook a special ‘welcome and engagement’ marketing campaign to help generate excitement, ensure broad citywide awareness and ‘dress up’ the city in preparation for the games. This signage-based campaign comprised four key, high-impact elements:

A ferry wrap and corresponding terminal signage.
A series of out-of-home (OOH) advertisements at transit shelters, featuring three-dimensional (3-D) sculptures.
A street-pole banner program.
A colourful Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips Square, in front of City Hall.

Ferry wrap
Among the largest-scale initiatives for promoting the games in Toronto was the application of colourful wrap graphics to the Thomas Rennie, one of the city’s iconic ferries on Lake Ontario that transport passengers between the city’s waterfront and the Toronto Islands.

“This was a unique, one-off situation to celebrate the games and, I believe, the first time any of our ferries has been fully wrapped, including 
the bow, stern, upper deck and sides,” says Kimberly Bain, Toronto’s marketing supervisor for economic development and culture.

Bain worked with TO2015, the games’ organizing committee, to incorporate its colourful ‘United We Play’ themed graphics into the ferry wrap design, following the committee’s established branding guidelines. She also worked closely the municipal parks, forestry and recreation division, which operates the vessel.


Perforated films were applied to the windows, allowing passengers to see outside.

“We knew the graphics would look great on the water,” says Bain, noting the iconic ferries are highly visible each summer. According to the city, between the May and September long weekends, one million residents and visitors use them to cross over to the islands. “And this year, there would be Pan Am sailing events in the harbour.”

Given the lead time necessary to wrap the Thomas Rennie before its operational season, the project was the first part of the overall campaign to get started. In November 2014, the city issued a request for proposals (RFP) to find a vendor who could manage all aspects of the wrap, along with the complementary banners and posters at the mainland’s Jack Layton Ferry Terminal.

In January 2015, the contract was awarded to Toronto-based Holman. Founded in 1964 and known for designing branded displays and environments for retailers, trade shows, museums and special events, the company won the job with its full-service capabilities.

“It’s certainly unusual to wrap a boat—and this was the first time for me—but we can pull in the right people to work with on large projects when these kinds of opportunities arise,” says Mark Wojtowicz, graphics manager for Holman.

One of the primary challenges was determining measurements for the graphics. As wrapping the entire ferry—which was built in 1951—had no precedent, there were no existing specs for Holman to work with.

“We started blind,” says Bain. “Holman had to spec it all from nothing.”

When designing all elements of the wrap, Holman adapted existing TO2015 graphics into an overall ‘wave’ scheme, so as to meet the committee’s requirements and come up with an eye-catching pattern.

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